These Are the Current Middle Children of Rap
When J. Cole deemed himself as the "Middle Child" of rap back at the top of 2019, he spoke for a generation of artists who can make music that caters to both sides. His viewpoint is valid. Rap now, even though it’s as free and fluid in sub-genres than ever been before, is more separated when it comes to how people view it. And age and experience plays a huge part in that.
More lyrical, conscious rap is seen as boring to some hip-hop enthusiasts. And to others, it's the thing that’s keeping the art form alive. As is the case with trap and infectious free-flowing music that’s all about getting turned up. Some people view it as a golden, undiscovered threshold. And other critics view it as shallow and unimpressive.
Of course, there's a vast difference between someone like a André 3000 and a Playboi Carti, but things aren’t ever that black and white. Embedded in rap right now is a grey area that houses young people who identify with Cole. In their music, rappers like YBN Cordae and J.I.D reflect the fact that they studied greats like Nas and Big L, but they can still make music that resonates with a younger audience in a way that can seamlessly play back to back with Lil Uzi Vert songs and not throw off the vibe.
Today, XXL takes a look at 10 middle children in rap, their figurative rap "siblings"—meaning what other artists their styles are aligned with—their influences and the projects or songs that bring all of the above together.
Heads up, on this list you won’t see obvious choices like a Wale, Cole or Kendrick. Instead, you’ll see the younger guys who the old heads claim don’t rap like they used to.
See The Current Middle Children of Rap